Think wintry weather is the only thing contributing to your cold? Think again. Nutrition plays a major role in ensuring your immune system stays healthy. You wouldn’t go out in a snowstorm without a coat for protection: don’t forget to equip your body with the nutrients it needs to fight infection.
Boost Your Defenses:
1. Vitamin A
Vitamin A helps fight off infection by assisting in the production of white blood cells, which attack harmful bacteria and viruses. It also ensures your skin, mucous membranes and intestines are durable enough to prevent harmful bacteria from entering your body. Eggs, milk, liver, carrots, cantaloupe, papaya, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, mango, apricots, and red peppers are all good sources.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps skin heal from cuts and scrapes. This is particularly important during winter months because bacteria have a hard time penetrating healthy skin, which is your body’s first line of defense against pathogens. Most people only need 60 to 90 milligrams per day. The goal is prevention: studies show once you get sick, more vitamin C won’t help much. Each of the following suggestions will meet daily needs.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that help regulate your immune system by keeping the ratio of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ bacteria in balance. Studies have shown probiotics may help maintain your gut’s protective barrier. Foods containing probiotics include: yogurt, kefir, cheese, kimchi and miso.
Even a modest deficiency of zinc can affect your ability to fight infections. More studies are needed to determine if zinc supplementation is beneficial in reducing cold symptoms, but supplements appear to boost the immune system when zinc levels are already low.